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Taking The Stigma Out Of Mental Illness

FLORIDA COURIER — The facts are troubling. One in five adults are diagnosed with a mental health condition. That’s over 46 million people. Of the 46 million, more than half do not receive treatment. Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide.

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By Jenise Griffin

The facts are troubling. One in five adults are diagnosed with a mental health condition. That’s over 46 million people. Of the 46 million, more than half do not receive treatment.

Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide.

Suicide is now the No. 10th leading cause of death in the United States. It’s also the third leading cause of death for youth between the ages of 10 and 24.

“Mental health looks like me, mental health looks like you,’’ said Dr. Vashaun Wllliams, a Tampa Bay psychiatrist, who shared these statistics and how to identify mental illness at “A Dining Room of Hope’’ banquet presented by Aaron’s House. The organization is referred to as a safe haven for parents and caregivers of loved ones living with bipolar and depression.

The May 5 event, held annually during Mental Health Awareness Month at the Rusty Pelican restaurant in Tampa, is a fundraiser for the non-profit Aaron’s House, which provides temporary housing for family members who have a loved one diagnosed with a mental illness.

Psychiatrist: Seek help

Williams, one of the speakers at the fourth annual banquet, urged the nearly 200 attendees to be supportive of those dealing with a mental health condition, and to seek help immediately if a loved one is in a crisis situation.

“You want to seek help promptly. Treatment is available,’’ said Williams, a health provider with Gracepoint Wellness Mental Health Center and in his private practice, Reaching Maximum Potential.

That help is available for the patient as well as family members.

Helping hundreds

It’s a message that Tampa Attorney Pamela Robinson, founder and executive director, stresses through her work at Aaron’s House.

“We’re helping 12 to 15 families from funds raised during our events. This does not include the hundreds of people that call in throughout the year seeking advice and inquiring about various resources,” she told the Florida Courier.

Honoring son

Education about mental illness is one of the key components to Aaron’s House, she noted.

“We celebrate mental health awareness one month out of the year. But caregivers deal with these conditions on a daily basis. It is essential that caregivers and others understand the signs of mental illness faster, and are on top of the different types of illnesses so that they can work toward more efficient treatment protocols and be on top of the newest treatment trends and medications,’’ Robinson said.

Aaron’s House is named after Aaron Keith Robinson, who died on Aug. 4, 2014, from an accidental gunshot wound after what’s referred to as a psychotic episode. Thirteen years earlier, he had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

“A Dining Room of Hope’’ is presented by Aaron’s parents – mom Pamela, and his dad, Donald, co-chair of the event.

It is a way to honor their son and raise funds for families in need.

Each year, the Robinsons bring in someone to share statistics on mental health as well as a motivational speaker.

Encouraging caregivers

This year’s keynote speaker, Tony Gaskins Jr., a national motivational speaker and author, shared his experience of working at a group home years ago for people dealing with mental health issues.

Through his teary-eyed message, Gaskins shared words of encouragement to the banquet attendees.

“If you find yourself caring for someone, whether it’s your child, your mother or father,  any family member, any friend, you may be chosen against your will. … You were chosen because you could be trusted… When you can find it in your heart to support those who are affected by it directly, to pay it forward, not only do you change your life but you change theirs,’’ he said.

Robinson said Gaskins reminded caregivers in the audience that their “jobs of caring for their loved ones is a sacred charge given to them by the Creator of the universe… Mr. Gaskins was able to use his background as an employee in a mental health facility to galvanize caregivers into action.’’

‘A hidden taboo’

She also mentioned how discussing mental health issues has been a taboo in the Black community and that must change.

“Because the proliferation of mental illness is exploding minute by minute and mental health has been a hidden taboo, we are bringing those issues out of the closet. As they come out, new tools for combating, coping and dealing with mental health conditions are emerging,” Robinson related.

“We are no longer in the closet. I’d like to see people with mental illness who cannot afford insurance in the African-American community get the same health care treatment as those who are more affluent.

“I’d like to see this community rally around our fellow men and women who are struggling, and, of course, I’d want to see mental health getting as much attention as physical health.”

A daily struggle

Although her son has been gone for five years, Robinson noted that she still struggles with his loss.

“It is a daily struggle; the pain does not abate. I still have his cell phone in my contacts. I think of him during my entire waking hours. He is never far from my thoughts, but it is rewarding to assist caregivers and others as they embark upon providing lifetime service to their loved ones,” she added.

For more information on Aaron’s House and its support group schedule, visit www.aaronshouse.org.

This article originally appeared in the Florida Courier

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Activism

Ask County Supervisors Not to Spend Millions in Tax Dollars on Oakland A’s Real Estate Deal

Please attend the meeting Tuesday, October 26 and express your opinion; call or e-mail your supervisor and Keith Carson, president of the Board of Supervisors, through his chief of staff Amy Shrago at (510) 272-6685 or Amy.Shrago@acgov.org

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A rendering of the proposed new A’s ballpark at the Howard Terminal site, surrounded by port cranes and warehouses. Image courtesy of MANICA Architecture.

The East Oakland Stadium Alliance (EOSA) and other groups are asking local residents to attend and speak at next week’s Alameda County Board of Supervisors meeting to oppose a proposal to spend county residents’ tax dollars to pay for the Oakland A’s massive multi-billion-dollar real estate deal at Howard Terminal at the Port of Oakland. 

Please attend the meeting Tuesday, October 26 and express your opinion; call or e-mail your supervisor and Keith Carson, president of the Board of Supervisors, through his chief of staff Amy Shrago at (510) 272-6685 or Amy.Shrago@acgov.org

The Stadium Alliance urges community members to “let (the supervisors) know that Alameda County residents don’t want our tax dollars to pay for a private luxury development. This proposal does not include privately funded community benefits and would harm our region’s economic engine – the port- putting tens of thousands of good-paying jobs at risk.”

 

“The Oakland Post’s coverage of local news in Alameda County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.”

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Community

Marin County Sheriff Sued for Illegally Sharing Drivers’ License Plate Data

This practice has violated two California laws, endangers the safety and privacy of local immigrant communities, and facilitates location tracking by police.

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An example of ALPRs (www.pasadenanow.org)

Marin County Sheriff Robert Doyle has been sued for illegally sharing millions of local drivers’ license plates and location data, captured by a network of cameras his office uses, with hundreds of federal and out-of-state agencies, such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Customs and Border Protection (CBP), over a dozen other federal law enforcement agencies, and more than 400 out-of-state law enforcement agencies.

This practice has violated two California laws, endangers the safety and privacy of local immigrant communities, and facilitates location tracking by police.

The suit seeks to end the sheriff’s illegal practice of giving hundreds of agencies outside California access to a database of license plate scans used to identify and track people, revealing where they live and work, when they visit friends or drop their kids at school, and when they attend religious services or protests.

The lawsuit was filed in Marin County Superior Court by the ACLU Foundations of Northern California, Southern California, and San Diego and Imperial Counties, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), and attorney Michael T. Risher representing community activists Lisa Bennett, Cesar S. Lagleva, and Tara Evans, who are longtime Marin community members.

License plate scans occur through Automated License Plate Readers (ALPRs): high-speed cameras mounted in a fixed location or atop police cars moving through the community that automatically capture all license plates that come into view, recording the exact location, date, and time that the vehicle passes by.

The Marin County Sheriff’s Office scans tens of thousands of license plates each month with its ALPR system. That sensitive personal information, which includes photographs of the vehicle and sometimes its driver and passengers, is stored in a database.

The sheriff permits hundreds of out-of-state agencies and several federal entities, including the Department of Homeland Security, to run queries of a license plate against information the sheriff has collected. The agencies are also able to compare their own bulk lists of vehicle license plates of interest, known as “hot lists,” against the ALPR information collected by the sheriff’s office. 

“In the hands of police, the use of ALPR technology is a threat to privacy and civil liberties, especially for immigrants. Federal immigration agencies routinely access and use ALPR information to locate, detain, and deport immigrants. The sheriff’s own records show that Sheriff Doyle is sharing ALPR information with two of the most rogue agencies in the federal government: ICE and CBP,” said Vasudha Talla, immigrants’ rights program director at the ACLU Foundation of Northern California. “Police should not be purchasing surveillance technology, let alone facilitating the deportation and incarceration of our immigrant communities.”

California’s S.B. 34, enacted in 2015, bars this practice. The law requires agencies that use ALPR technology to implement policies to protect privacy and civil liberties, and specifically prohibits police from sharing ALPR data with entities outside of California. 

The sheriff also violates the California Values Act (S.B. 54), also known as California’s “sanctuary” law. Enacted in 2018, the law limits the use of local resources to assist federal immigration enforcement.

“The information unveiled through this lawsuit shows that the freedoms that people think they possess in Marin County are a mirage: people cannot move about freely without being surveilled,” said Bennett. “Our county sheriff, who has sworn to uphold the law, is in fact violating it by sharing peoples’ private information with outside agencies. This has especially alarming implications for immigrants and people of color: two communities that are traditionally the targets of excessive policing, surveillance, and separation from loved ones and community through incarceration or deportation.”

The Marin County Post’s coverage of local news in Marin County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.

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Community

The 157th Session of the AME Church’s California Annual Conference: Not Just Business as Usual

For the 157th time in history, the African Methodist Episcopal Church in California met to report at the call of their bishop, the Right Reverend Clement W. Fugh, which, for the first time was held both on-line and in person from Bethel AME Church at 916 Laguna St. in San Francisco. 

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Bishop Clement W. Fugh, Presiding Prelate of the 5th Episcopal District, ready for the 157th Session of the California Annual Conference

For the 157th time in history, the African Methodist Episcopal Church in California met to report at the call of their bishop, the Right Reverend Clement W. Fugh, which, for the first time was held both on-line and in person from Bethel AME Church at 916 Laguna St. in San Francisco. 

The renowned presiding elders, Rev. Dr. Harold R. Mayberry and Rev. Dr. Vernon S. Burroughs, middle managers of this portion of Bishop Fugh’s charge, shared the accounts of their respective territories at the AME Church’s California Annual Conference via prerecorded videos at the meeting hosted by Churches of the Sacramento Valley. 

The lead congregation from the valley was Murph-Emmanuel A.M.E. Church in North Highlands, CA, which is pastored by Rev. Dr. Carieta Cain Grizzell, whose spouse Rev. Martin Grizzell is also known for his past ministry in the Bay Area. The venue church is served by the pastoral team of Rev. Robert R. Shaw and his partner, Assistant Pastor, Rev. Ann Champion Shaw. Murph-Emmanuel and Bethel A.M.E. Church were acclaimed by Bishop Fugh for their cooperation in this session of the California Annual Conference.  

Bethel A.M.E San Francisco looked like a television set had grown into the sanctuary, complete with multiple lights and cameras. There was a technical team (in person and on-line) primarily made up of young adult members of AME churches under the purview of the bishop. The meeting was a clear, joint effort of both clergy and lay people, more than in past years. Though the California Annual Conference has long made a point of including non-cleric church members, young and old, the COVID-19 pandemic circumstances have clearly advanced the Conference’s inclusivity.  

“The Word of God is Colorblind,” said Bishop Fugh during the retirement portion of the Annual Conference which honored the retirement of the host pastor. The diversity within churches of the California Annual Conference was on display at this 157th session of this historic meeting and it was clear that the leadership encourages the welcoming of all who would like to join with the church. 

There was an apparent focus on meeting safely, with limitations on those allowed to join in person. Attestations related to COVID-19 were required of registrants and a screening process was administered at the venue. The bishop commended the venue leadership and church for the dignity that was maintained during the process. 

Registration for Zoom attendance was also a painless process and open to whomever desired to attend the Webinar. The conference was accessible on Facebook as well as YouTube. The bishop also encouraged churches to make attendance as safe as possible while keeping the process simple and focusing on a quality worship experience. Bishop Fugh set a goal for represented churches to reopen their sanctuaries by the first Sunday of November. 

This session of the California Annual Conference carried with it the long-standing traditions of the first Christian denomination founded in response to social injustice over 200 years ago. The ministries reported primarily using pre-recorded videos this year as it all followed through decently and in order. Indeed, there was a genuine spirit of love during the conference.

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